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How to Handle Helper Absenteeism

How to deal with helper Asenteeism

Imagine a scenario where your domestic help lands for work coughing and sneezing: clearly nursing the flu. The question then is what should you do? Praise and encourage the practice as a dedication to one’s work, or encourage the helper to take the day off? Dealing with Helper Absenteeism is a difficult task.

I would choose the latter. This is because I have realized that the presence of any of my staff when they are not well can cause a large variety of issues. Even though they will be present for work, they will not be productive. Moreover, having a sick employee in my home or office can put others’ health at risk…this includes me.

What happens if I catch the flu from my helper or Driver: I need to take a day off from work and ask kids to stay away from me. If kids catch the flu they will need to take day off from school. Then there will be medical expenses and general loss of productivity.

You might feel that by doing so you will be encouraging the absenteeism. That is a possibility. So, what is the solution? I have some tips, based on my experience:

  • Offer all domestic staff monthly and/or annual paid leaves. Give them the option to decide when to use it
  • Encourage them to carry over their unused leaves
  • Allow your ABCDE: Aya, Bai, Cook, Driver and Everyone similar, to take leave when they call in sick: No questions asked.
  • If the Helper calls in sick and takes day off, deduct that from the total leave

Trust me, like any other employee, your domestic staff is also good in managing their leaves. If you do not question their right to take leave they will never lie to you or take leave without a notice.

I have moved cities, but have never had my domestic helper take a leave without informing me, while someone else employing the same lady may complain about her uninformed absence. The reason is simple: I never say no to a leave after I have followed these simple process:

  1. Decide the number of total leaves
  2. Decide the money to be deducted if extra leave is taken
  3. Arrive upon the rules for taking a leave (for eg.: how much notice should be given for a planned leave)

After this I just put the onus on the Helpers to use the leaves they have. Try it and you will find that they will nearly always want to save their leaves for future rather than lie to you and take a leave.

A little bit of trivia: As per research, the main reason why any employee: including white collared, blue collared and unorganised labour, come to work when sick is ‘Presenteeism’. Presenteeism is defined as being present at the work even when you clearly cannot be productive due to an illness, lack of motivation, or work overload. Research also shows that presenteeism is always a manifestation of insecurity about one’s job. That is the reason you also have your maid or driver or babysitter reporting for work even when clearly sick. Absenteeism is dreaded by employers and employees alike.

As a good manager, just get them out of this insecurity. Make them feel that taking the leave they are eligible for is their right, but they need to follow the rules you both have decided. You will not have to deal with either absenteeism or presenteeism.


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